It’s well accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a paradigm shift when it comes to the world of work. Remote working which was previously seen as a perk for a few businesses has now become the norm – with employers now being tasked with having to effectively engage and motivate an isolated workforce. At the same time for many businesses, these unprecedented times may mean a number of operational and workforce changes and communicating those, and what the future looks like, will be instrumental in maintaining employee wellbeing and reducing anxiety. For these reasons, now is a pivotal moment for organisations to ensure they have strong leaders who can rise to the challenge.
A new type of leader
It’s easy to be a good leader when things are going well for the business and the economy, yet it is a completely different challenge when in times of crisis. Leaders that previously thrived within the walls of the traditional, physical office now find themselves in the unchartered territory of having to lead remotely and virtually. For these reasons, it’s important that a new type of leader emerges.
What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan, but behaviours and mindsets that will help them to look ahead and adapt. One of the characteristics that this new leader needs to encompass is empathy. It’s only natural that senior leaders, under pressure from various stakeholders, look to default on the financial implications the pandemic is causing, placing this worry and pressure onto employees - but this isn’t the right answer.
Instead, leaders must show a level of compassion. In uncertain times where workers may be worrying about everything from vulnerable members of their households, to health and safety protocols and more crucially job security,it’s crucial that leaders are able empathise with their workforce and can have these tough conversations with honesty and transparency, rather than pass the buck to HR.
During a crisis, leaders must exemplify the values and behaviours they want from their teams, leading from the front. These new types of leaders need to be able to think differently and demonstrate agility, not only in their plans and work schedules but also in their leadership styles. Fostering open channels of communication and developing the ability to adapt and flex to meet changing market – and employee - needs will build an environment of unity and collaboration in order to succeed in a post COVID-19 world.
Coaching the next generation of leaders
As firms assess the full impact of the pandemic, the need to identify and nurture homegrown leaders will also be imperative – and some organisations are already doing this by re-gearing their talent and succession programmes to get ahead of the game.
Part of the process of finding the next leaders within the business is about providing them with the opportunities and environment to develop their skill sets. One way this can be achieved is by providing different styles and levels of coaching to managers in these challenging times.
Over 80% of employees say they lack the skills needed for their current job and the future. Helping individuals strengthen their ability to manage in a fast-changing global economy requires a culture of learnability and a nimble mentoring approach. Never has the need for self-management been more crucial - and coaching is key. Situational coaching platforms can guide the future leaders of tomorrow by creating positive and sustainable change within the business and help quickly address the challenges they face in the new world of work.
Encouraging a coaching culture is crucial. It may be tempting to think that talent management is a luxury that can wait until after the crisis has passed, however the reality is that the shift to remote working has escalated the need for employee development training. Distance and less face-to-face interaction mean the need for better and strong communication has been heightened. More employees are spending time alone, which can have a negative impact on performance and morale. That’s why leaders and managers must be provided with the right coaching so they can support remote team members in the areas that will help create engagement and motivation: personal development, understanding expectations and aligning their goals with those of the organisation.
Coaching also helps create a culture of resilience. For many of us, handling stressful situations day to day can take its toll. Being resilient doesn’t mean eliminating stressful situations, but learning how to adapt to challenges as quickly as possible. With the right support mechanisms, managers can feel empowered to conquer any challenge they might come across.
It’s now time that businesses look to develop their current and future leaders to set their business up for success, and by providing them with timely, relevant and personalised coaching, these leaders will be able to weather any storm or crisis that comes their way.
To learn why your leaders and managers need on-demand coaching now, register here for the September 24 webinar, Accelerating Development Performance with a Coaching Culture.
Author: Jacques Quinio, Centre of Excellence - Assessment, Leadership Development & Coaching, Right Management Europe
Originally published in HRM Guide, August 2020.